MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY
My approach to teaching reflects my commitment to nurturing each student’s unique identity as a journalist. To that end, I spend as much time as I can, one-on-one, working with students to hone in on exactly the kinds of stories they want to tell — and why. Are they called to be investigative reporters, magazine editors, cultural critics, or social justice advocates? I give each pupil a lot of latitude in the kinds of stories they pursue — and in the forms those stories take — as long as they are in keeping with that students’ ultimate goals and with the highest standards of professional journalism.
To achieve this aim, conversation is key. In my classroom, I make a point of encouraging dialogue, of coaxing greater self-confidence from those who are reluctant to speak, and of creating a supportive space where each learner can praise and critique one another, where they see their own experiences as valuable, and where they can learn from each other’s different backgrounds and points of view. My intent is always to generate a lively discussion. I do this by asking my students questions about the course materials and about current events.
I want my students to see that there are many ways to be a journalist. Thus, I make an effort to expose them to work by reporters, nonfiction writers, and editors from an array of backgrounds and, where possible, to directly introduce them to those people through classroom visits. In my work as a visiting assistant professor of journalism at the State University of New York from 2009 to 2010, I organized a series of speaking events featuring award-winning reporters, including Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston and the late White House correspondent Helen Thomas. More recently, as a full-time lecturer at the University of Southern California, I have spearheaded an initiative to make diversity more central to the curriculum, and have designed a new required course providing students with strategies for covering diverse communities and for navigating implicit bias.
This new initiative acknowledges the fact that we live in a society that provides us with both unearned privileges and undeserved challenges based on traits that we cannot change — our sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, racial background, ethnic origin, and physical ability. At the same, the initiative also emphasizes that our unique privileges and challenges give us each special access to some kinds of knowledge and to certain specific sources — allowing each of us to tell some stories better than anyone else can. By understanding these realities, I prepare my students to fulfill their ethical obligation as journalists: to speak difficult truths, keep authorities accountable, and stand up for those experiencing injustice.
In addition, my time as a university instructor has shown me that carefully tailored, in-class activities in writing, editing, and interviewing are a wonderful opportunity to observe students’ thought processes and provide them with immediate direction and guidance. I have had tremendous success with this interactive approach in graduate and undergraduate courses covering the basics of news writing as well as courses dealing with more advanced topics, like web design and literary journalism.
I believe that careful listening is the basis of all great teaching. Each student is an individual and should be treated as such. They all bring their own perspectives, passions, and personal style, and it is crucial to listen thoughtfully to their ideas, concerns, and suggestions.
Moreover, my approach is flexible, adapting to the needs of individual students and classes, and finding ways to maximize their talents, sharpen their reporting skills, and deepen their passion for storytelling.
“Thank you for leading a great class this semester and teaching us how to effectively promote and practice more diversity and inclusion both in and outside of the newsroom. It was hands down the most eye-opening course I’ve ever taken.” — Master of Science in Journalism student
“In the summer [session], I noticed that a lot of my interview assignments were overwhelmingly with white men. Now, when I’m out around campus trying to get interviews, I try more to approach women or people of color rather than another cadre of white men. As someone who has enormous interview anxiety to begin with this was incredibly difficult, I think that these conscious decisions are making for better stories. All of these things — understanding diversity, valuing different unique perspectives, being more tolerant of opposing ideas — they’re incredibly important for people in general, but they’re that much more important for us as reporters. Because of these discussions with my peers, I’m learning so much more about the world I want to cover as a journalist, and I’m understanding the importance of what we’re all trying to do.” — Master of Science in Journalism student
“Learning about things like implicit bias or using one’s own privilege for good may feel repetitive in principle, but what makes these discussions fresh are hearing about people’s specific experiences. For instance, I knew what code-switching was on a logical level but [hearing an LGBTQ-identified classmate’s] story about feeling the need to sound and appear ‘straight’ in job interviews enabled me to put a face to the definition.” — Master of Science in Journalism student
“I learned much more [in your course] than I expected. I thought we would just discuss job searching and interviewing techniques, but I was surprised to find that we ended up talking about so much more. … Before finally deciding to come here, I was also accepted to Columbia University and NYU. I don’t know if either school would have offered the same kind of dedication to equipping their students with the compassion, empathy and fairness that’s needed to be a truly good reporter. But I know I’m thankful that Annenberg does.” — Master of Science in Journalism student
“Thank you for everything last year. Your class & resume training truly prepped me for life post graduating. I'm not sure I'd be where I am now if it wasn't for you.” — Recent Master of Science in Journalism graduate working in television
“For my mock interview this past semester I chose a strategic communications company that I’ve had my eye on for a while. ... When a job became available last month, I applied with the cover letter I wrote for your class and my updated resume. After four interviews, mock writing tests and numerous calls with the managing partner in L.A., he just called to let me know he would hire me today if I was available. And if a spot opens when I graduate, it’s mine. The reason I’m sending this to you is just to reiterate the value that you and your class has had, so thank you!” — Master of Science in Journalism student
“I appreciate you going above and beyond to help me!” — Master of Science in Journalism student
“I just wanted to say
again for everything, and for a wonderful semester. Talking to
about the stories that I’ve been meaning to write really meant a lot to me.
I am also super excited to read yours!
for sharing with me what that process, and that journey, has been like for
Our conversation really helped guide me to figure out why I want to be a storyteller
and ... I just wanted to say
— Master of Science in Journalism student
“Channing, you’ve done amazing work.
I have gotten verbal thank you's and amazing responses to your [course]. ... Clearly you have made a great impact.”
— USC Annenberg associate dean, speaking on the impact of a new graduate course